The Great Resignation: Why Are Professionals Quitting?
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The Great Resignation: Why Are Professionals Quitting?

The Great Resignation Imagem de capa de artigo

The Great Resignation is a term coined by Anthony Klotz to describe a mass and voluntary workforce resignation movement.

In other words, The Great Resignation means that many people are resigning from their current jobs and going to other companies.

The Great Resignation tends to occur during periods of economic stability, in contrast to times of crisis and insecurity when people are typically more hesitant to quit their jobs voluntarily.

The significant concern at the moment is that this mass departure is occurring during a time when the world is still grappling with the pandemic, and as a result, economies are still unstable.

So why is this movement happening now, at a seemingly counterintuitive time?

Did the Great Resignation come out of nowhere?

While the Great Resignation has recently gained a lot of attention, the trend did not emerge suddenly and shouldn't be seen as a surprise.

Resignation requests have been on the rise in the US. According to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, published in November 2021, 4.4 million people have resigned, representing a rate of 3%, the highest in history since they began to be counted in 2001.

In addition, the same report states that there are about 10.4 million open positions.

The Great Resignation gráfico histórico de pedidos de demissão segundo o US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Source: FRED

In the chart above, we can see the line pointing to 3% in September 2021. But, looking at the record, we see that the layoff rate has been growing for over a decade.

The trend of voluntary layoffs was already increasing prior to the pandemic. However, the pandemic initially caused the rate to decrease before rebounding strongly.

The effect of the pandemic

Given the impact on the countries' economies, it is natural to think that the pandemic would harm jobs.

In fact, as the chart above shows, the rate of resignations fell sharply at the beginning of the pandemic. The movement was natural and expected because of the uncertainties facing the crisis.

However, what draws attention is the increase in the rate in a few months and its tendency to grow even without the pandemic having ended, thus characterizing the concept of The Great Resignation.

To explain this effect, there are some considerations and possibilities:

High demands and burnout

The pandemic led to a significant increase in demand for certain industries and markets, including delivery and technology companies.

The heightened demand and resulting overwork, coupled with poor people management and the overall sense of crisis, fears, and uncertainties, may have contributed to an increase in cases of burnout and other psychological disorders among various types of professionals.

The Great Resignation may be driven by a desire for better working conditions, as improving mental health becomes a growing priority.

Reading tip: Psychological Safety: Trust and Inclusion for Innovation and Efficiency

New challenges and professional goals

The pandemic may have prompted many workers to reflect on their goals and professional purpose, leading to a desire for new challenges and ultimately contributing to the Great Resignation.

Remote work has made certain company perks, such as game rooms, pool tables, and free snacks, obsolete, as employees no longer have access to physical facilities.

If we remove these variables, what is left? The work itself.

And from this reflection on "what is my job" and "what are my real professional goals", many people may have started to look for new challenges in companies that provide this new purpose for them.

Remote work and new possibilities

The pandemic has forced many companies to adopt remote work, with some employees embracing the new way of working while others are less enthusiastic.

But going beyond personal opinions, one thing is a fact: our vision about remote work has changed, and this new form of work allows professionals to work for companies anywhere in the world, from home.

Professionals whose field of work allows the ease of remote work are increasingly looking for jobs without strict geographical limitations.

This change in mentality with work formats, strengthened by the pandemic, may also have influenced the Great Resignation movement.

What is the profile of the Great Resignation movement?

Imagem ilustrativa The Great Resignation

As talk of The Great Resignation movement gains momentum, it may appear that companies and markets are experiencing a similar exodus of talent.

However, some areas and types of professionals are more likely to quit than others.

In this regard, Ian Cook and his team from Harvard Business Review conducted a survey to determine the main profile of professionals who are resigning en masse.

The conclusions of this research were:

  • Resignation rates are highest in mid-career professionals;
  • Rates are highest in the technology and healthcare fields.

Mid-career professionals

The resignation rate was, on average, 20% higher for professionals in the 30 to 45 age group.

This high number may have been caused by three reasons:

  1. Companies are giving preference to hiring this range of professionals, increasing demand;
  2. The professionals had already been thinking about resigning before the pandemic, but were forced to delay this movement, which has become more unified and concentrated during these last few months;
  3. The professionals have reached their maximum tolerance regarding burnout and high work demands and have decided to look for new opportunities.

Technology and healthcare areas

Resignation rates for healthcare professionals increased by 3.6%, while those for technology professionals increased by 4.5%. Both figures are above the overall average, which was 3%.

Overall, and as already discussed in this text, Ian Cook's research indicated that the areas that experienced increased demand and higher stress due to the pandemic had higher resignation rates.

Reading tip: Pivoting Your Career: What Is UX Design?

The Great Resignation is about economic, social, and psychological forces

In this article, we have already looked at some of the main factors that may be causing this Great Resignation movement.

But these factors alone are not enough to justify this movement. They all need to happen together, all at once.

According to Stephen Courtright, professor, and director of executive education at the University of Iowa, a combination of economic, social, and psychological forces may be responsible for what we call Great Resignation.

For Stephen, the composition of each of these forces happens as follows:

Economic forces

  • Change in market dynamics: with more vacancies than candidates, the power of choice is in the hands of professionals, unlike years ago, when there were more people and fewer vacancies;
  • Repressed resignations: the will to resign came before the pandemic, but with the health crisis, uncertainties arose and professionals repressed this will. Today, with more confidence, people have only complied with what they already wanted;
  • Better salaries and fringe benefits: with fewer candidates available, companies have started to improve their salary and fringe benefits package to make themselves more attractive to the market.

Social forces

  • Work flexibility: with the pandemic, the flexibility of remote work is an important factor that professionals increasingly seek;
  • Safety: professionals seek companies and opportunities that provide physical and psychological safety, for them and their families.

Psychological strengths

  • Reduction of uncertainty: with more openings than candidates, people have more peace of mind and less aversion to risk, and therefore consider changing companies more easily;
  • Burnout and dissatisfaction: we have already commented on how mental health can be decisive in making people resign. In the pandemic, with increased workloads, dissatisfaction and burnout may have become more common;
  • Search for balance and purpose: the isolation and fear of the pandemic brought reflections to people, who started to search for a professional purpose and a more appropriate balance with their personal life.

The combination of these forces transforms the context into a perfect moment for people to decide to resign and look for opportunities in other companies.

Great Resignation in the technology area

As seen, the technology area is one of those responsible for pulling the number of resignation requests upward in the US.

TalentLMS and Workable conducted research to understand and dig deeper into the impact of technology professionals on The Great Resignation.

Right off the bat, we have a very significant number: 72% of those surveyed say they are thinking about leaving their jobs or exploring new opportunities in the next 12 months. That number is well above 55% of the overall U.S. average.

Source: TalentLMS

Why are tech professionals leaving their jobs?

The survey also listed the top reasons why tech professionals are quitting their current jobs.

Source: TalentLMS

The leading reason is the lack of career progression, with 41%. Along with this are reasons we have already seen throughout this article, which further strengthens these issues.

Lack of flexibility and a toxic environment are the other two most frequent reasons that fuel Great Resignation in technology.

It's worth noting that while the lack of remote work options is a prevalent issue in many industries, it's not among the top concerns for technology professionals, despite being cited by 30% of respondents.

A possible explanation for why remote work options aren't as pressing for technology professionals is that this industry has been accustomed to remote work for quite some time. Especially in fields such as UX design, the pandemic has only reinforced this work model.

As a result, technology professionals may be better equipped to handle the challenges of working remotely, and the lack of remote work options may not have as significant an impact on their well-being.

Reading tip: Product Manager – Business, Technology, and User Experience

What do technology professionals look for in new opportunities and what keeps them motivated?

Another question that the TalentLMS survey sought to answer was what professionals look for in new opportunities in other companies.

Unsurprisingly, salary and fringe benefits are the top concerns for professionals in the technology industry.

Source: TalentLMS

Next, the survey indicated that skill development and work flexibility are two other factors that professionals most look for in other companies or opportunities.

In line with this result, we also have the factors that keep people motivated in their jobs.

Source: TalentLMS

The first motivational factor pointed out by the people surveyed was the opportunity to have more training and learning.

Thus, aligned with the development of skills being one of the factors analyzed to change jobs, we can consider that training and learning can help retain people in companies.

Moreover, training does not only involve technical issues, it is also important to consider the development of soft skills. In the long run, skills such as communication, leadership, and empathy can also help retain people, as these skills help build a less toxic environment.

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This topic recurs a lot in this text, but it is important to note that this disorder is real and has been happening a lot, also according to the TalentLMS survey.

About 58% of the people surveyed responded that they suffer from burnout syndrome.

In this sense, it is important to point out that burnout is a disease caused exclusively on account of poorly managed and bad work environments.

The WHO has updated the classification of Burnout Syndrome, which was previously considered a mental health problem and a psychiatric condition. With the update, burnout is now fully linked to work, being "chronic work stress that has not been successfully managed." The new classification was approved in 2019 and will go into effect in 2022.

This change links the illness to the work and not the person, so it further strengthens the premise that companies should look at their employees' well-being and quality of life.

This alert is also important for Brazilian companies. In a survey conducted by Randstad, 81% of Brazilians say they want more balance between their professional and personal life. For comparison, the global average is 67%.

What can companies do to retain professionals?

The TalentLMS survey also brings some insights for companies to retain professionals in the face of The Great Resignation:

Look inward more than outward: in the survey, 3 out of 4 participants responded that the companies where they work prioritize new hires instead of retaining existing employees.

This attitude needs to change because retaining people is directly linked to the environment and the employee-company relationship. As long as companies do not look at and nurture the people who already work there, increasing the retention rate is hard.

Provide training and development opportunities: As you have seen, people value training and career development. This certainly helps both in retaining professionals and in increasing the capabilities and skill level of employees.

Also, providing training helps send a message that the company cares and is investing in the development of its employees.

Offer flexibility and value quality of life: flexible hours and remote work are no longer new to the technology industry. But it is important that companies understand that these forms of work help retain people, and this directly influences the quality of life and mental health of professionals.

It is important for companies to keep in mind that people are increasingly valuing work-life balance, especially after the reflections that the pandemic provided.

How does Great Resignation affect UX Design?

If one of the markets most affected by the Great Resignation is technology, it is clear that the area of UX Design is also impacted by it.

However, it is important to note that the UX field has been growing a lot in recent years and the trend is only increasing.

According to a study by NN/g, the perspective is that in 2050 there will be 100 million UX professionals in the market.

Reading tip: UX Design In High Demand

One of the factors contributing to the Great Resignation is precisely the changing dynamics of the markets, that is, there are more openings than candidates. This is a reality that the UX area has already experienced, and now perhaps it will be boosted even more.

On the company side, talent retention is a challenge that needs to be overcome, and on the professional side, the more companies adapt to this new reality, the better.

These changes mean better opportunities for financial, social, and psychological issues.

While it's true that UX designers have enjoyed some benefits that other industries haven't yet embraced, such as remote work, it's important to note that there's still room for improvement.

Companies should make changes to retain their UX professionals, such as offering competitive compensation and professional development opportunities. These changes can further benefit the UX design industry.

In general, the Great Resignation indicates that the mindset of professionals, whether in technology or not, is changing and that companies need to keep up and adapt to this new format to retain people and maintain their competitiveness.

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